Time to get real: Teen girl survey rates advertising

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For the second year in a row, a survey conducted on behalf of the Advertising Women of New York shows that young girls are "insulted by ads that make it seem like women only care about their looks."

Online research company and entertainment Web site SmartGirl.com surveyed 272 of its teen-age girl users online between July 1 and Aug. 15. More than 50% of girls said they see ads frequently that make them feel like they need to diet, and 68% state that there is too much sexual imagery in today's advertising, compared with 64% of respondents last year.

The fact that roughly the same percentages of girls this year are dissatisfied with advertisers' representations of women indicates there has not been much change in the last year, said Isabel Walcott, founder and president of SmartGirl.

"We provide a forum for girls to speak, and when they depict ads as offensive and inaccurate, it should be a real wake-up call for advertisers," said Ms. Walcott.


In conjunction with the survey, AWNY will host the fourth annual The Good, the Bad & the Ugly awards show on Sept. 25 in New York. The ceremony recognizes advertisers that have succeeded in portraying women in a positive light and lambastes those that perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Among last year's "winners" was the "Michael vs. Mia" campaign for Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade, from FCB Worldwide, Chicago.

This year's SmartGirl survey shows girls favor Nike ads, especially those featuring the U.S. women's soccer team and tennis player Mary Pierce.

"Losers" include Victoria's Secret, Bally Total Fitness and Calvin Klein.

Survey respondents also want ads that combine realism and aspiration.

"I think that everyone is striving to use more real girls -- many companies are very outspoken about having varied body types and diverse ethnic backgrounds," said Publisher Laura McEwan of YM. "On the flip side, the marketers have aspirational notions with their product that they know girls want. We're working to find a correct balance between the two."

"The reality is that sometimes what girls say and what they respond to are different things," said Jane Buckingham, president of Youth Intelligence, a market research company focused on trend forecasting for generations X and Y.

"They want the attractive side of real, as well as understanding for these aspirational desires."

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